By Ben Wiese | Oct 09, 2022
Custom fasteners and other precision components
Entering the oil and gas scene in the 1980s, Shamrock Precision has been a dynamo from the get-go. With the expansion of contract manufacturing work in the aviation, aerospace, and defense industries in the last decade, the business has continued a 40-year trend of evolving and striking gold in the process.
In 1981, Shamrock Precision made its bones as a distributor of a product in constant demand: fasteners. The company would buy in bulk, break the order down into desirable quantities, and maintain the rest as inventory. Though the industry changed over the years, as did the needs of the customers, Shamrock Precision was ready.
"Eventually, our customers in the oil and gas industry requested custom fasteners, so that's when we started manufacturing," says Embrey.
Since supplanting his father as company president in 2008, Embrey has zeroed in on two primary practices in order to keep the business humming: constant communication with his management team and a continuous dance between the micro and macro.
"I have all my managers meet in the morning to discuss the topics of the day in what we call our management huddle," he says. "The purpose is to break through logjams. Is there anything urgent? Is there anything pressing? Has anything happened in the last 24 hours that needs to be brought to my attention or to the attention of others to assist?"
He adds, "By the afternoons, that's when I dig in and do strategic big-picture planning."
By splitting his day between the two, Embrey is able to have his hands in all facets of the company -- local, global, and everything in-between.
In 2008, needing to accommodate rapid growth and its CNC machinery, Shamrock Precision expanded to Johor, Malaysia. In the subsequent years, and in part as a result of its expansion, Shamrock has nudged its way into the aviation, aerospace, and military fields. The growth has led to a diverse manufacturing portfolio -- naturally, a beneficial business decision.
"Since 2015, we've focused heavily on diversification and have successfully broken into aviation and defense industries," says Embrey. "We intend on continuing to serve our oil and gas base while pushing hard for the diversification of other areas."
With that diversification in industry has come a diversification in product. While still in the realm of manufacturing fasteners, Shamrock has discovered it is capable of considerably more than just that.
"While it still remains in a fastener category, we are producing precision components, and we can easily accommodate product way beyond fasteners," says Embrey. "We can accommodate valves, fittings, and critical components that have a description, not necessarily a category or a name."
Shamrock Precision has two manufacturing spaces nearly at opposite ends of the Earth: Dallas, Texas, and Johor, Malaysia. (The Dallas space is about 35,000 square feet, of which 20,000 square feet is devoted to production space.) The plants boast around 25 CNC machines combined, and each space is 100 percent HVAC -- a key detail when producing complex precision parts. The two manufacturing plants provide Shamrock with a decisive advantage in the world of buying and selling.
"Both our Dallas and Malaysia plants follow a 'capacity leads demand' philosophy: we purchase in excess of the requirements for key product that we are contract manufacturers for," says Embrey. "We invest in additional capacity of equipment and manpower in order to say 'yes' and follow through with our commitment to customers and meet tight deadlines. We are able to do quick turnarounds for low-volume orders on half of our equipment and the high-volume on the other half."
Another key piece of the company's success is its ability to store product and a lot of it. By working the inventory storage into its business model, Shamrock addresses an immediate and constant need of its customers.
"In our industries, especially oil and gas, our customers want the product yesterday," says Embrey. "We can only meet that quick turnaround by investing in excess supply. Inside our facilities, one of the first things you notice is our wall of raw materials. We maintain a lot of raw material: approximately $1 million worth of round bar of various sizes."
Challenges: The pandemic interrupted Shamrock's ability to keep massive amounts of inventory on hand or to even obtain the raw materials necessary for keeping up with its previous inventory numbers.
"Because of COVID-19, and so many factors being negatively affected as result, raw material is a very big challenge," says Embrey. "Historically, we are purchasing raw materials in bulk and in advance, and sometimes we are hearing from material vendors that not enough material is even available. We have to make do with what we would usually have, and the cost has been escalating -- not just gradually, but quite rapidly."
Opportunities: Embrey sees the recently announced CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 not as a direct shoot to new business but as a shift in the manufacturing landscape certain to indirectly usher positive benefits to the rest of the manufacturing world at large.
"I'm quite optimistic and excited to see how the CHIPS Act will build up new semiconductor manufacturing plants in the U.S., all the jobs [that will be created] as a result, and all the ancillary and supporting jobs that will come from it," says Embrey. "I'm very excited to see how Shamrock can be a part of it."
Needs: Consistently, the figures within the manufacturing world voice frustration with the lack of new blood entering the manufacturing workforce. Shamrock Precision is not immune to such laments. "We need more manpower in the industry," says Embrey. "Not just people that are wanting to work in a manufacturing environment, but people that have the skillsets to thrive in a manufacturing environment."
To improve its chances of landing better employees in the future, Shamrock has made it a point to emphasize a positive workplace environment and a consistent approach to communication throughout its leadership structure.
"We need to continue creating an environment and benefits that will result in us attracting and retaining good people," says Embrey. "It is a no-brainer to invest heavily in our work environment."